Fred Wilson wrote shortly after the feature was introduced: Social networks to date have been these big unmanageable messes. Facebook is addressing that by giving users a tool to consolidate the information they care about (Jessica’s friend tagged four photos with her name the other day – that’s worth knowing).Facebook is changing the experience in a significant way by surfacing in a very efficient (but also very public) way the data that is already in the systemUsers will have to react to this. They’ll have to think more about their privacy options. Or just get used to it. Because this is what the power of feeds and social networks is all about. This is the future.
Fred also pointed to a quote by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Forbes: Before, it was an encyclopedia model, but now were changing to a news model.
Dave Winer explained about the feeds feature:
The feature they introduced tells users what’s new with their friends. It makes people more efficient at browsing the network of Facebook users they’re connected to. It’s a feature I understand because, as Rex Hammock points out, it’s very much like the River of News aggregators I’ve been developing since 1999.
Facebook is absolutely correct that no new information is available now that wasn’t available before, but only in a theoretic sense.
Now, on a much larger scale, with Facebook’s user base, the heads-up has to be done by word of mouth, and opt-in. Instead of forcing all the users to make sense of this all at once, bootstrap a new network on your old one, call it Facebook Plus, or Facebook Big City Life, of Facebook Now, put some futuristic imagery out there, and require users to sign up for an upgrade to their account, which would work thusly.
Suppose I upgraded, and my friend Jane (in my network) also upgraded. Then Jane has a News page, and on that page all my changes show up, along with the changes of all members of her network that have also upgraded. I also have a News page and Jane’s updates show up there, as do all the changes of members of my network who have upgraded.
Now change comes gradually, and users drive the change. When I run into Joan at the bookstore and she tells me she broke up with her boyfriend, I realize I didn’t see that on my News page and ask if she’s upgraded. Now I, a user, her friend, explain how it works. She decides if she wants to participate or not. That’s what users are complaining about, and rightly so. They need to control how their network sees them.
One of the ways to view feeds has been propagated by Dave Winer. It is the River of News.
Tomorrow: River of News